Design Culture in Liverpool, 1880-1914: The Origins of the Liverpool School of Architecture

By Christopher Crouch | Go to book overview

Chapter One
The Styling and Ideology of the
Arts and Crafts in Liverpool

THE Liverpool School of Architecture and Applied Art started its life as an institution with its educational principles rooted in the ideological assumptions of the Arts and Crafts movement. It is necessary to immerse ourselves in the cultural milieu in which the institution emerged, for the relationship between the English Arts and Crafts' and American Beaux Arts' methodology is more closely intertwined than might at first be thought. Central to understanding this relationship is an awareness of the dialogue between architectural form and content, between what is signified through the adoption of a particular style and how this relates to the processes of its manufacture. The assumption is often made that all Arts and Crafts styling is a reflection of the cultural aspirations of William Morris and John Ruskin, and reflects their socially progressive position. However, there is nothing intrinsic in the adoption of a vernacular style which guarantees this. As close examination reveals, the stylistic similarity of buildings within the city does not necessarily mean a similarity of ideological intent by their designers. If we can separate out the difference between style-based architectural signifiers and the circumstances under which a building is conceived and then constructed – its methodology – then the move from Arts and Crafts to Beaux Arts styling at the Liverpool School is much easier to understand.

In interpreting the design base bequeathed by the Arts and Crafts movement in Liverpool's cultural superstructure, two architectural ‘institutions’ present themselves as paradigms. One is Port Sunlight, 15

-15-

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